Progressions in Self-awareness By Matt Swilley

In 2018 the Fellows have been diving deeper into the value of self-awareness amidst a season of volatility. Quite literally every climate has left its mark this winter in Nashville. As we grapple to stay in touch with our identity, I wanted to discuss a few memorable progressions.

Navigating the complexities of 21st century vocational callings is challenging. Loads of information and opportunities complicate modern culture and the very nature of self-discovery. With more options to make a living than ever before, it’s difficult to see young adults lost and unsatisfied. Not to mention that in demand jobs in 2010 did not even exist in 2004. You see companies like google tapping every industry they can to curb risk ramifications of technology and capitalism. Any one of google's bread and butters won’t exist in 5 years and we’re preparing for jobs that don’t even exist yet. All to say, vocational acumen was hard to discern for most of the Fellows.

Bill and Suz are consultants who joined us on our vocations retreat to help us navigate the daunting question of personal vocation. We were reminded of the beauty in our gifts. Not given to us for us, but first to God’s glory, and then to bless others. The weekend equipped us with tools to understand core competencies and shortcomings. Conversations encouraged honesty within ourselves, owning our uniqueness, and how to translate competencies to serve God and his kingdom best. My ability to think on a long-term time frame was one of the more interesting affirmations of the weekend. Commercial real estate development is a long-term game with significant leg work on the front end. I enjoy that behind the scenes stake in something bigger to come down the road. All in all, the weekend touched and affirmed many vocational competencies that I look forward to developing throughout my career.

Consumerism is also worth looking into, especially as a millennial. We’re constantly pulled at the core to stay up to date (socially, politically, and vocationally) and learn new skills. This hunger keeps us motivated and always busy. A large part of my job is following real estate and related industries to best plan and account for the future. The shear wealth of information to study is fascinating but unending. Modern work culture leaves little to no time for self-evaluation and reflection when we’re spending 99% of our time and efforts in places other than our own. For a long time, I was stuck and found my identity within my anxiety. I figured it must be just how I was supposed to be, rationalizing that it could be worse, and finally that nothing I could do would change it. I have grown a lot through being intentional with self-care amidst hectic circumstances this year. Mindfulness has been a pivotal tool for me and a few other Fellows in our group. It reconnects one to their God given core, not by eliminating thoughts or feelings, but instead through mature discernment.

Some of our recent studies have included Theology of The Human Body by Christopher West. I’ll mention a few interesting questions we wrestled with as a group. What is the meaning of life? Self-sacrifice, to die to ourselves, to live how God designed us for his purposes and ultimately others. Why did God create us male and female? It’s to show us the completion of God - and to experience love on earth how the trinity is in Heaven. The circulating metaphor encompasses our need for Christ, community, and church. Why is there evil in the world and how do we overcome it? Evil exists because of Adam’s original sin; we now live in a fallen world. We overcome it by knowing God. Our bodies are meant to be redeemed. The love of God is manifested in our bodies where the spiritual and physical life intersect. How do we attain true happiness on earth? Dying to Christ, laying down your life for his purposes. Whoever wants to lose his life may find it. The son of man did not come to be served but to serve. Forget yourself, focus on using your gifts to help others. What kind of joys await us in heaven? Union with Christ, freedom from judgment, selfishness, and cheap love. These conversations brought a significant amount of purpose to what we had come to know about ourselves.

I’ll leave you with a piece of scripture and a prayer that have impacted me this year:

“To each a manifestation is given to the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12: 7) All of our gifts matter. If we don't use them, everyone is at a loss including ourselves.

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us
through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole
human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which
infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us;
unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and
confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in
your good time, all nations and races may serve you in
harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ
our Lord. Amen.

- Book of Common Prayer



Ecumenical: To Learn To Be One by Elizabeth Williamson

An aspect that makes the Nashville Fellows program unique in comparison to others is its’ ecumenical nature. Out of the three churches partnered with the program one is of the Episcopalian tradition and the other two are PCA (Presbyterian Church of America). On top of that out of us 15 fellows there are many varying backgrounds and traditions in the Christian faith. This was something from the start that drew me specifically to the Nashville program.

Throughout this year we have touched on varying topics within Christian theology ranging from Calvinism in reformed theology, the sacraments of more orthodox traditions, and even discussing things like Pope John Paul II’s reflections on the theology of the body. Often intertwined in these “light topics” we address very “light questions” such as: what is the meaning of life? As one might expect, a question such as this may result in varying opinions and heated discussions, but also very beautiful revelations both internally and externally for each person. I think if any quote sums up the many theological discussions we have had as a fellows group this year it would be that each person has been, “able to agree with the things they do believe in, question the things they’re not sure about, and disagree with the things they don’t believe in”.

I can’t take credit for this quote. It belongs to our ever wise and faithful director Theresa.

This year we have been invited to enter into controversial, joyful, frustrating, enlightening, and sometimes even tiring conversations within Christian theology and the faith our Lord has given us. The Church the Lord has left to us, and the hope that one day Christian unity is something that exists rather than anticipated are things we have been grappling through together.

I know the communication skills I have gained in bridging the gaps of opinions that differ from my own will carry with me throughout the rest of my life (and will continue to modify because I know I am nowhere near mastery of this skill). However, it has been so wonderful to sit in a room with 15 intelligent people each Monday who, agree or disagree and sometimes agree to disagree, on many different topics within our faith. “Our” being the key word we have had to remind ourselves of when leaving a passionate conversation.

Ultimately, we are to be reminded of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 12:12-14

“As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. Now the body is not a single part, but many.”

He goes on further to say in 1 Corinthians 12:20-22

“But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand “I do not need you”, nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.” Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary.”

In fact I need my sisters and brothers in Christ that I disagree with. When we push away from those we disagree with we do not function as a proper body in Christ with the absence of that person. Instead, we are called to enter into these difficult conversations. I am a lousy eye without my head, and some of these people have become my head (in the most wonderful way possible). I acknowledge that there are differing theologies and opinions within the Christian faith, but I have learned it’s the willingness of either side to walk away with the same respect for the other that they began with. And I will fully admit that I have failed at this, but it is something I will continue to work on.

It is important to remember we are bound in our creed,

“I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.                                                                                                           

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light, 
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,                                                                                                              and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.                                                                                                                                For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,  
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come.


And most of all it is important to remember we are bound in our love for Christ and His love for us.

How thankful I am that the Lord died for a sinner like me.



Kyrie Eleison by Theresa Wilson

Each year during the spring semester, we study a theology of Sabbath with our Fellows. Sarah Puryear teaches on Sabbath rest using authors such as Norman Wirzba, Eugene Peterson, Wendell Berry, and Lauren Winner. It's a powerful time to reflect on our own patterns of rest (or lack thereof), and since this teaching falls at the beginning of Lent each year, we challenge the Fellows to incorporate a pattern of rest into their weekly routine throughout Lent. Last year I decided to read a devotional called Bread and Wine as part of my journey into regular rhythms of rest and reflection, and I want to share what I learned through that as it is still forming me in significant ways presently.

As I read through the book, the authors invited me to walk with Christ through his temptation, Passion, and crucifixion. It was an invitation to look at my own sin and realize my role in the crucifixion of Christ. I've always found the crucifixion accounts in the Gospels to be so uncomfortable... so hard to read. I've also always let myself get away with that, to some extent, until now. One of the contributors to the devotional, Fleming Rutledge, told the story of a woman who, when her church had the congregation participate in a dramatic reading of the Passion account by having them play the role of the crowd that shouts that they want Jesus crucified, commented to Fleming that she could not bring herself to shout, "Crucify him!" She was convinced that she could not say such an awful thing. Fleming wrote, "I have often thought, since, how terribly sad that was. In her stubborn blindness, [this woman] could not identify herself as a sinner like all the rest of us." Wow, a dagger to my heart. I began to allow myself to ruminate on the cross and my sin more fully than I have before.

I then came across one of the most powerful devotionals to me in this same book. Entitled "The Cross and the Cellar," Morton T. Kelsey talks of the cellar in each of us. He says, "Each of us has underneath our ordinary personality, which we show to the public, a cellar in which we hide the refuse and rubbish which we would rather not see ourselves or let others see." He reminds us that those running concentration camps in Germany were formerly peace-loving citizens, well educated and thoughtful. Until the beasts in each of them were released. Kelsey writes,

I do not like to stop and, in the silence, look within, but when I do I hear a pounding on the floor of my soul. When I open the trap door into the deep darkness I see the monsters... There emerges the sheer mindless destructive brutality of the Frankenstein monster, and next the deft and skilled Aztec priest sacrificing his victim. Then I see the image of the slave trader with his whips and chains... and then the accuser crying at me with a condemning voice.

Thankfully, though, Kelsey does not leave us languishing in the cellar. He ends by saying, "This confrontation often leads us into the pit. The empty cross is planted there to remind us that suffering is real but not the end, that victory still is possible..."

And here,  my friends, is the beauty of what I reflected on during Lent. As I looked on my utter depravity, I did not feel farther away from God but closer. I did not feel God's condemnation but rather his love, more strongly than I have felt it in a long time! The cross of Christ is the ultimate sacrifice of love, and therefore my sin and God's love for me are forever intertwined in the act of Christ on the cross. What a strange mixture of grief and peace, of loss and life, all at once.

I will admit - it is easier for me to dwell in sadness and a bit of hopelessness these days, given the hurt in our world currently. But to feel deep sadness without hope is to lose sight of the power of the cross. It is to not truly believe what Christ did for us. Doubt is a part of our journey, to be sure, but what a beautiful thing to know that it is precisely in moments of deep darkness that the work of the cross of Christ shines brightest. To this hope I cling!

Each year our Fellows attend St. George's Maundy Thursday service (we'd love to have you join us at St. George's on March 29th), and it is such a powerful visual reminder of what Christ did for us. One of the songs the choir sang last year was Ubi Caritas. I'll leave you with the words of this song below, but let me preface it by saying that one of the greatest sources of hope for me amidst the darkness in our world is seeing the Body of Christ come together in unity. One of the reasons I was drawn to working with the Nashville Fellows Program was because of its ecumenical commitment. I truly believe that now is a critical time in history for the Church to show the world a better way forward. A way that is characterized by love and unity instead of fear and division. The words to this song reminded me again of the hope that springs forth from unity in Christ's Body:

Where charity and love are, God is there. / Christ's love has gathered us into one. / Let us rejoice and be pleased in him. / Let us fear, and let us love the living God. / And may we love each other with a sincere heart.

Where charity and love are, God is there. / As we are gathered into one body, / Beware, lest we be divided in mind. / Let evil impulses stop, let controversy cease, / And may Christ our God be in our midst.

Where charity and love are, God is there. / And may we with the saints also, / See Thy face in glory, O Christ our God: / The joy that is immense and good, / Unto the ages through infinite ages. Amen.



41 Will Come by Tyesha Butler

Six months ago I made the move to Nashville to be a part of The Fellows Program. Since there is not a Fellows Program in Mississippi, I really had no knowledge about it at all. Unlike many of the fellows in my class, I graduated college the semester before them, so I knew I would be entering yet another time of transition. I had just transitioned from living with roommates in college, to moving back home, and I would now be moving here to live with a family that I didn’t know. But the more I researched the program, I began to realize that this was indeed the place I needed to be.

As I was in the season of living back home, I felt like I was in this monotonous routine and I knew that there had to be something more. I wasn’t sure if I should pursue graduate school, seminary, or the possibility of going on staff for Young Life. While processing through the “what’s next” I began reading this book entitled “41 Will Come.” This book basically talks about the significance of the number 41 in relation to being in a season of waiting.

“In the Bible, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights. But day 41 came, and the rain stopped. The people of Israel wandered for 40 years. Then year 41 came, and a new generation entered the Promised Land. Do you see the theme? Don’t quit. Don’t give up. God will come through for you.”

I was waiting for a door to open and the “right” path to just show up. After applying to other programs, and not being accepted, The Lord was so faithful to reveal to me that the road I thought I was suppose to take wasn’t the plan he had for me; but there was something better in store. This led me to then hear about The Nashville Fellows Program from a college friend and soon after apply to the program. I can vividly remember the night before I was accepted into The Nashville Fellows. As mentioned before, I was reading the book 41 Will Come and the book stressed the importance of waiting on God’s timing. So I thought, “what if I count the days from when I was rejected from one program up until the next day when I would then find out if I would be accepted”? To my surprise the next day counted to be day 41. I definitely cried tears of joy because it was evident to me that this was the path God had for me. This also showed me how important it was for me to truly trust God’s timing and not my own.

From the first day I arrived here in Nashville to even now, many of the experiences I’ve had have been confirmations of that truth. I don’t say this as a means that every day in the last six months has been easy, because they haven’t been, but I have felt the assurance that I am where I’m supposed to be. Being that I am the only African American in my program, this experience has caused me to learn so much about myself and others. For one, I recognize the impact of my presence in being here, not just in my fellows class, but also my job and church community. It has been amazing to see how God has not only used me, but has pulled me from my own personal levels of comfortability and challenged me to step into harder places and conversations. This has allowed for much personal growth that was well needed.

My host family have been incredible since the first day I moved in. I have appreciated how welcoming they are and their genuine interest in knowing me, as well as, the program. The church community is awesome and I have LOVED getting to know my group of 8th grade girls in the youth group. My job has been one of my favorite parts of this program. I work for a nonprofit called Uprise. It is a Career Development Program for men and women in Nashville. One of the things that I have enjoyed the most about my job is the relationships I have developed with our staff and also the leaders in our program. Working here has granted me the opportunity to really learn about people of various backgrounds and the value of ones' story. Last but certainly not least, I have enjoyed the sweet friendships and love of the other 14 fellows in my class. The support I have from each of them has been such an encouragement to me. We laugh, cry, dance (mainly them), pray, and love each other deeply. I have always been the type of person that kept my thoughts to myself, but they have continuously challenged me to speak out more (though this is an area I am still working on).  

Have you ever noticed that when you first arrive in a new area you don’t really notice how good it is at first sight? Being here in Nashville has been a constant reminder of the beauty I’ve seen after spending time in this place for awhile. Initially I spent a lot of time using the GPS to get from one place to the next, so much so that I unintentionally missed out on what’s right in front of me.  While driving a few weeks ago this epiphany sort of struck me as I was in awe at how beautiful the Nashville scenery is, as well as, the people I have encountered here. Spending time with my host family, fellows, D-group, and work staff has illustrated this day-to-day. Furthermore, this was even evident as I started to think about The Gospel that I have been learning this year. Whether this is in times of solitude, class, or in my church community - the more time I spend emerged in scripture, the more I am able to see how beautiful it is from Old Testament to the New.

After being here for six months, I can surely say that I have learned my way around this place ‘sort of’ and have really appreciated all parts of Nashville. I am blessed to be in such an awesome program and have met people that I can’t imagine life without. The person that I aim to become will forever be impacted by the 6 months I have spent so far being in The Nashville Fellows Program. I hope to always remember in times of waiting that 41 will truly come.



Vocations Retreat Recap by Marshall Clark

*Each year, the Nashville Fellows take three development assessments and head out on retreat with two consultants who spend four days with our Fellows helping them understand how God has created and shaped them. This retreat is a pivotal point for Fellows each year, and Marshall shares about this year's retreat below!

From January 26-29, the Nashville Fellows embarked on the vocations retreat, admittedly, with a mixture of anxiousness and anticipation. The Fellows are currently all over the spectrum in regards to future plans. Some are returning home, some have jobs already lined up, while others are lurking somewhere in the middle, but all of us were ready to engage with the “greatest thing our program does” according to Theresa.

Although perhaps a little stir crazy by the end of our time in the cabin, I don’t think anyone could have anticipated how much of a blessing our time with Bill Fullilove and Suz Grimes would be. We seemed to cover everything imaginable, from a theological basis for calling and vocation, down to the nitty gritty of making a vision statement for our work lives. Bill and Suz were both treasure troves of information for us who struggle with many fears and lies regarding our vocation. And finally, the Fellows were able to dive deep into the personality tests that have been rattling around in our brains for the past few weeks (EQi, MCORE, and Highlands).

Selflessly, Bill and Suz met with every Fellow for an hour, 1-on-1, to go further into anything that was confusing. This was one of the biggest blessings from the weekend, along with “pod sharing”, where the three partner churches got to meet with their specific Fellows to share with and affirm one another with all they've been learning. Overall, the Fellows left with a sense of hope filled with more questions: some are still deep in the midst of processing their assessments while others have a better idea of what direction they want to go next. Either way, all of the Fellows learned so much about vocation, the intersection of gifts, desires, and opportunities, and God’s overwhelming faithfulness to his children regarding it all.